14 new high tech drug analysers for Customs

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This week Customs is deploying 14 new FirstDefenders, a mobile substance identification device, to enhance its capabilities to protect the border says Customs Minister Nicky Wagner.

“FirstDefenders use a laser to analyse a substance, often without the need to open the packaging. It matches this against a database of over 11,000 illicit and legal substances to provide an accurate result within seconds,” Ms Wagner says.

“These devices will be a fundamental piece of equipment for frontline officers, making drug identification quicker, safer and more efficient.

“They are portable and easy to use, making it ideal for district ports and can be used for Customs’ search warrants or taken on board vessels that are searched.

“Its database can be upgraded to include new and emerging drugs, which is significant as synthetic drugs continue to evolve in chemical properties. Customs will also be sharing this latest capability with partner agencies to help with broader drug enforcement work,” Ms Wagner says.

Ms Wagner visited a training session in Auckland this morning to see the devices in action. Similar training will be held in Wellington and Christchurch this week, with the devices being deployed to 12 regions.

“A single device was purchased in 2014 with funding from the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act to help identify illicit drugs within seconds at the International Mail Centre. Following its success, close to $977,000 was invested in 2015 to extend this technology to all Customs regions,” Ms Wagner says.

“Customs’ hard work in seizing drugs and catching criminals has literally paid off. We are using assets taken from criminals to purchase tools that will help seize more drugs and catch more criminals.”

The 12 locations include Opua, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, New Plymouth, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin, Queenstown and Bluff.